It is often said that women are not logical. Well thank goodness for that! If we calculated everything in life, we would be completely unprepared for the unexpected, and life is one constant flow of unexpected. Women’s wisdom comes from the knowingness deep down in the core of her being. Without intuition, we are without our true strength, something that goes beyond analytical intellect and the measures of science, it is the wisdom of the world speaking through our bodies, it is a strength beyond anything that can be controlled. When we allow this intrinsic force to flow through us we no longer feel something is missing. When our intuition is strong, we feel safe, relaxed, complete and connected with all the life of this world. This is the place where trust lies; this is the place of discernment. And for this we need progesterone!
Progesterone is something all women under the age of 50 want lots of. For far too long it has only been placed under the restricted label of pro-gestation hormone, in other words the pregnancy hormone. Beyond that it has been pretty much ignored. Yet it’s the sister hormone to oestrogen and is supposed to be dominant for 50% of our cycle. Progesterone is our peaceful graceful hormone. When in balance it brings a sense of slowing down and deep contemplation. It is the hormone of boundaries. When lacking we can easily experience irritability, overwhelm and teariness. We can even hit despair and the urge to suddenly give up or end situations.
As with all steroid hormones it is responsible for hundreds of vital roles within almost all of the systems of our body and our brain. Without it we are only functioning at 50% of our capacity; our innate vitality drastically impaired. How do we make progesterone? Ovulation!
Why We Love Progesterone
Progesterone is the internal peaceful, graceful hormone. When in balance it brings a sense of slowing down, reflection and contemplation. It is the hormone of boundaries, self respect and self trust. When lacking one can easily experience unstable emotions including irritability, overwhelm and teariness. One can even hit despair and the urge to suddenly give up or end situations. This is a common place for women to go to during low progesterone PMS. Our hormones are constantly trying to show us what is working for us and what is not, the more we can understand them the more we become attuned to our needs.
The Many Fabulous Roles of Progesterone
STRESS SUPPORT –It is the fuel needed to make cortisol. It works as a natural antidepressant and antianxiety.
Balance –It keeps oestrogen in balance, turns oestrogen receptors on or off, and makes it whenever needed. It helps balance the immune system.
MOOD BALANCE – It makes GABA, the calming neurotransmitter. It regulates serotonin and dopamine, supports sleep and balances mood.
THYROID SUPPORT – It enhances thyroid function.
ANTI-CANCER –It activates the enzyme p53 which helps prevent cancer formation.
Heart –It is needed to protect the heart and clean arteries.
PREGNANCY – It sustains pregnancy and grows the babies brain and nervous system. Your ob specialist is able to determine if you have healthy levels of progesterone during your pregnancy.
HEALTHY BONE –It builds bone and helps prevent osteoporosis.
PROTECTION – It protects nerves by creating myelin sheath.
ENERGY – It helps stabilize blood sugar level.
SUPPORT – It activates enzymes supporting liver process and cleansing oestrogens. Relieves water retention. Supports healthy respiration.
BRAIN BOOST – It increases memory and mental alertness.
LIBIDO – It is a key player in a healthy libido.
WEIGHT BALANCE – It metabolizes excess fat.
Common Signs of Low Progesterone
- Aggressive outbursts
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Breast tenderness/ Fibrocystic
- Cravings/ Eating disorders
- Foggy brain
- Headaches (PMS)
- Impaired concentration
- Low libido
- Low self esteem
- Memory loss
- Menopause symptoms
- Mood swings
- Weight gain – hips and thighs
For many moons now societies relationship to a woman’s menstruation has been contentious to say the least. Being part of female sexuality, dominant religions have looked down upon the mooncycle for many centuries, viewing it as unholy and unclean. Today in the west it is clearly accepted as a normal part of life necessary for creating babies. Even so it is still neatly hidden away and commonly judged for being limiting to a woman’s daily life. This has led to the common medical practice of halting this essential hormone production cycle with synthetic hormones such as the contraceptive pill, the mirena or the injection. But if our cycles are able to create the life of a child, surely that lifeforce production is something quite profound and must be beneficial to our bodies?
Our ovaries, the factory of our creative energy, produce progesterone and oestrogen, two hormones that are essential for the vitality and wellbeing of feminine health. These two ‘ladies’ work as a team, each sensitizing the receptors for the other. They have a delicate antagonistic relationship. For these feminine hormones to work together in balance progesterone needs to reach 300 times higher than oestrogen in the second half of your cycle. And for this to happen we need to ovulate!
- Fertile mucus – Oestrogen stimulates ovulation and we can see this by the release of the fertile mucus, a white sticky substance much like egg yolk. BUT it can also be released just from having high oestrogen levels, it’s not always a sign of ovulation.
- Body temperature – Your body temp goes up approximately half a degree after ovulation, this is because progesterone is stimulating your thyroid. Measure it in the morning.
- Regular cycle – A healthy cycle is anything between 21 and 35 days in length.
- Progesterone spike – If you are testing your progesterone levels you will have the highest spike 7 days before your period, so for a 28 day cycle this will be day 21.
Reasons for Not Ovulating
- Hormonal Contraception – contraceptive drugs such as the Pill stop your ovaries from ovulating. Therefore your entire cycle no longer exists. A pill bleed is not a period it is simply there to mimic real menstruation. And the “hormones” in all pharmaceutical contraceptives are not actually hormones. They are chemicals that block your hormone receptors to hold your ovaries in stasis. If you’re experiencing fertility issues, you might need to undergo blood, urine and saliva hormone testing to see if a fertility naturopath treatment will be able to help you.
- Post Contraceptive Pill Syndrome – It can takes months or sometimes years (without proper support) for your ovaries to recover from the chemical induced ‘kryostasis’.
- Progesterone Steal – Constant stress takes valuable progesterone from other areas of the body to make cortisol. If the brain perceives life to be dangerous it makes sure the adrenals are constantly fueled and the reproductive cycle is reduced to prevent conception – having a baby in a dangerous environment would just be silly.
- Hypothalamic Amenorrhea – Occurs from a lack of calories or carbohydrates. This does not mean you are necessarily underweight, it simply means you may not be eating enough in relation to your physical needs and current lifestyle. You may be exercising a lot and not keeping the calories up. In this situation the hypothalamus perceives your food intake as too little to fuel making a baby and turns off reproduction. This is the fundamental floor in certain eating styles such as the ketogenic diet or certain forms of intermittent fasting. It can also happen from too little healthy fats (sometimes organic animal fats are needed), or from a gut issue such as candida, SIBO, gluten sensitivity or any number of issues preventing you from absorbing your nutrients.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – Is a state that occurs when the hormonal system in compromised to the point ovulation can’t occur.
- Thyroid Imbalance – All elements of the endocrine system work together. If the thyroid is compromised it can suppress ovulation. Again the body doesn’t have enough energy to sustain making a baby.
- Peri-Menopause – When we have encountered too many layers of stress in our lives the body can be depleted of the resources needed to ovulate every month. This can begin as early as 35 years of age.
- Xenoestrogen Toxicity (environmental chemicals) – Out of the 80,000 environmental chemicals, a large percentage mimic oestrogen, and can be up to 1000 times stronger in their oestrogenic action. This creates a state known as oestrogen dominance, which can easily suppress progesterone production.
- Inflammation – The gut, immune system and hormones are intricately linked in their action. Inflammation can easily drive cortisol and oestrogen, therefore suppressing progesterone and the ovulatory cycle.
Signs of Annovulation
You can still have a period without ovulating! In fact too heavy periods, no period, or too light periods are both a sign that ovulation could be out of order. Other red flags include the length of your cycle, if it is longer than 35 days or less than 21 days ovulation may be amiss.
1) Clear out your cupboards – Go through all your cleaning products, cosmetics and personal care products. If it’s not organic chuck it. When it comes to chemicals we absorb more through our skin than we do through ingestion. You don’t have to spend a fortune, you can clean almost anything with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. As for your moisturizer a drop of baobab oil could be all the skinfood you need and ground oats and water will get your face squeaky clean.
2) Sleep – Women need 8 hours of sleep to have happy hormones, there is simply no compromise on this one. A late night here and there isn’t a problem but only 5 or 6 hours a night on a regular basis is going to plummet your progesterone. As for our cycles, sleep is certainly more challenging for some during the luteal phase therefore it is important to give yourself more time for rest during the second half of your cycle. There are a few useful sleep supports worth considering. Passiflora helps support sleep and detox oestrogen. Chamomile contains estrogen inhibiting flavonoids and indoles. GABA promotes sleep as well as helping to balance progesterone levels.
3) Blood sugar stability – Your endocrine system has one primary directive – to keep your blood sugar level stable. If you start the day with coffee and only eat at lunchtime you are basically living on cortisol. Your hormones need food! Give them a delicious protein packed breakfast (it doesn’t have to be big, just nutritious). Snack on some low carb treats and make sure your lunch is a hormone-fueled affair. Eating late ain’t great for the blood sugar, weight balance or for the your sleep so try and get supper in by 7.30pm.
4) Organic nourishment – Conventional animal products are filled with oestrogen, not great for the animals and not great for you. Plus pesticides also disrupt hormones so stick to organic where you can. Farmers markets are the way forward – local, sustainable, affordable and organic.
5) Hormone food– Hormones are made from essential fatty acids and proteins – so eat them. Keep it organic where possible. Olives, avocado’s, fish, seeds, eggs and coconut are a great foundation.
6) Get in the greens – Your liver needs glutathione to break down oestrogens and your gut needs fiber to usher old hormones out of your body. Plus all your endocrine glands need a good mineral supply so greens, greens, greens!
7) Omega 3 – EPA promotes oestrogen detoxification down the correct pathways. Dark fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel), grass fed butter, egg yolk (organic), walnuts, and chia and hemp seeds. Plant sources still need to be converted to the correct forms of omega 3, in most people less than 7% converts to EPA and less than 4% converts to DHA. In fact some people are unable to convert plant sources at all. The best sources are sardines, mackerel, other small dark fish and Nordic Naturals supplements.
8) Magnesium - Magnesium promotes oestrogen detoxification by directly increasing the activity of glucuronyl transferase, an enzyme involved in hepatic glucuronidation. Magnesium regulates the pituitary gland, which in turn regulates the production of FSH (follicular stimulating) LH (luteinizing) and TSH (thyroid stimulating) that in turn regulate the production of progesterone. The best food sources are dark leafy greens, raw cacao, avocado’s, nuts and seeds.
9) Vitamin B6 forms a healthy corpus luteum (the part of the ovary that makes hormones), which is your big progesterone producer. B6, B12 and folate, function as important cofactors for enzymes involved in estrogen conjugation and methylation. The best food sources are fish, organ meats, chickpeas and dark leafy greens.
10) Vitamin C has been found in high concentrations in the corpus luteum. It is taken into the ovaries just before ovulation and used to stimulate the production of progesterone. Some of the best sources are camu camu, acerola cherry, baobab and moringa.
11) Vitamin E stimulates progesterone production. Researchers, who knew that progesterone protected against the toxic effects of estrogen, described vitamin E as the “progesterone-sparing agent,” since so many of its antiestrogenic effects resembled those of progesterone. Many of the events involved in inflammation are increased by estrogen, and decreased by vitamin E. The best food source is sunflower seeds. There is also a vegan, vitamin-infused serum that promotes the appearance of longer-looking, stronger-feeling, fuller-looking lashes, just visit a reliable site like sugarbearvitamincare.com/products/sugarbear-lashcare to learn more!
12) Zinc is found in the pituitary gland and ovaries. It increases your levels of FSH, which in turn stimulates the production of progesterone. Zinc is only found in ocean foods such as oysters.
13) Chasteberry (Agnus Castus) is the feminine herb that does a fabulous job of bringing oestrogen and progesterone in balance.
14) Adaptogens – These babies are the wonder herbs that are saving our asses in this high stress reality. They work to regulate your endocrine glands, give you energy, help you sleep and heal stress damage. All of this and they are non-toxic. Adaptogens are the only herbs you can take on a regular basis long term. Some of my top favourites are reishi mushrooms, chaga mushrooms, ashwaghanda, tulsi, fo-ti, astragalus, shizandra and rhodiola. If you live in South Africa you can purchase my superfood and adaptogen mixes SuperThrive here.
15) Natural Progesterone Cream – Today science has given us an amazing antidote to environmental toxins, stress and the feminine disconnect – natural progesterone. Your integrative medicine doctor or anti-aging doctor can easily prescribe it for you. According to Dr Lara Briden if you suffer from PMDD it isn’t advised to use it in this form, rather get the microionized tablets. It is important to apply the lifestyle changes needed to create hormone harmony rather than just becoming reliant on natural progesterone. If you have had your ovaries removed then this will be a lifetime tool for you.
16) CBD Oil is known to help balance the endocannabinoid system which is in charge of supporting the hormone productive abilities of your ovaries according to the 2019 paper, The Role of the Endocannabinoid System on the Female Reproductive System.
Quick note: I will soon do a review on testosterone and the problem that many older men also have in reaching their levels, but to give you an idea of what this will be about we will discuss a hormone supplement that will help your man get that fierceness back in and out of the home. And according to testoprime reviews, this product is not only natural, but its consumption is completely discreet. More information soon ladies!